1. The Committee
considered the second periodic report of the Republic of Korea on
articles 1 to 15 of the Covenant (E/1990/6/Add.23) at its 12th, 13th
and 14th meetings (E/C.12/2001/SR.12, 13 and 14) held on 30 April
and 1 May 2001 and adopted at its 26th meeting (E/C.12/2001/SR.25),
held on 9 May 2001, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
expresses its appreciation to the State party for the comprehensive
report and for the written replies to its list of questions (E/C.12/Q/REPOFKOR/2).
The Committee notes with satisfaction the presence of a large expert
delegation which presented the report and which approached the dialogue
in a frank and constructive manner. The Committee notes, however,
that the report failed to include information on several important
areas and updated statistics, particularly on the critical situation
following the financial crisis, although this was partly remedied
in the written and oral information subsequently provided to the Committee.
3. The Committee
regrets that most of its suggestions and recommendations contained
in its previous concluding observations, adopted upon examination
of the initial report, have not been implemented.
4. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the significant and rapid economic recovery
from the 1997-1998 financial crisis in the Republic of Korea, the
present open climate towards human rights generally, and the advances
recently realized in the enjoyment of some economic, social and cultural
5. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the adoption of a wide range of laws and programmes
aimed at ensuring an adequate standard of living for all persons,
including the National Basic Livelihood Security Act of 1999, the
Employment Insurance Act, the National Pension Scheme the National
Health Insurance Scheme and the Industrial Accident Compensation Act.
It welcomes the extended application of the minimum wage to workers
in all enterprises, whereas the minimum wage had previously been applicable
only to workers in enterprises employing more than 10 persons.
6. The Committee
takes note of the recent establishment of the Ministry for Gender
Equality. It also notes with satisfaction the actions taken to grant
women equality with regard to employment, marriage to foreigners,
equality in the registration of children, and the possibility of passing
on their family name to their children. It further welcomes the Child
Welfare Act and the programmes in place to significantly expand public
and private childcare facilities, which are encouraging women's participation
in remunerative activities.
7. The Committee
welcomes the recent opening of an office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees in Seoul, through which applications for
asylum can be processed.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the Covenant
8. The Committee
notes that the State party is experiencing a period of major socio-economic
transition that affects its ability to comply with its obligations
under the Covenant.
9. The Committee
notes the continued negative effects on the enjoyment of economic,
social and cultural rights of the pervasive "fortress mentality",
which is enforced by the National Security Law. Moreover, the high
level of defence expenditure is in contrast with the shrinking budget
for key areas of economic, social and cultural rights.
10. The Committee
notes that deeply rooted traditions and cultural prejudices marginalize
certain categories of persons, such as migrant workers, and many women.
11. The Committee
notes that the "economy-first" approach adopted by the State party
has resulted in a low priority being placed on the protection of economic,
social and cultural rights. This has led to the marginalization of
certain groups in society in such matters as housing, social welfare
and health care.
subjects of concern
12. The Committee
is concerned that the State party did not take into account its Covenant
obligations when negotiating with international financial institutions
to overcome its financial crisis and restructure its economy. The
overreliance on macroeconomic policies has had profound negative effects
on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in that there
have been large-scale employee dismissals and lay-offs, a significant
deterioration in employment stability, growing income inequalities,
an increasing number of broken families and marginalization of a large
number of persons.
13. The Committee
views with concern the fact that the rapid pace of economic development
has not been matched by efforts to guarantee economic, social and
cultural rights. The Committee is concerned that, in such a situation,
some rights or the rights of some groups are being sacrificed for
the sake of economic recovery and market competitiveness.
14. The Committee
is concerned that the data-collection methods of the State party do
not seem to be fully reliable. Examples include data on unemployment
and underemployment, housing, poverty and migration. In some cases,
there were very large gaps between the statistics provided by the
Government and those from other sources, including the agencies of
the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, which has serious
implications for the effectiveness of government policies and programmes
designed to address the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized
15. The Committee
regrets that no adequate effort has been made since the examination
of the initial report to ensure that the rights provided for in the
Covenant are fully enshrined in law. The Committee notes with concern
that, according to the Constitution, the status of the Covenant is
equal to that of domestic laws, which means that the protection of
some rights may be overridden by subsequently enacted laws or special
laws. It regrets the lack of clarity as to whether all Covenant rights
can be invoked in domestic courts and further regrets the absence
of any case law.
the advances noted in paragraph 6, the Committee notes with deep concern
the continued unequal status of women. Persisting problems include
the traditional preference for sons, which is manifested in a high
incidence of induced abortions of girl foetuses that threaten the
reproductive rights of women; the patriarchal head-of-family system
(ho-ju) as defined in law; the high incidence of domestic violence;
the relatively low access by women to tertiary education; discrimination
against women and sexual harassment in the workplace; and a large
gap in the average salaries paid to women and to men.
17. The Committee
regrets that the specific conditions of work to which the so-called
"irregular workers" are subject have not been clarified during the
dialogue. Information from independent sources indicate that "irregular"
workers are distinguished from "regular" workers, although they often
perform the same tasks, in that irregular workers receive lower wages,
pension benefits, unemployment and health benefits and have less job
security. It also notes that the proportion of irregular workers in
the general labour force has grown to half, the great majority of
18. The Committee
is alarmed at the rising incidence of industrial accidents in recent
years, which appears to be the result of a relaxation of the standards
governing industrial safety and of the insufficient number of on-site
19. The Committee
notes that teachers can legally enjoy their right under article 8
of the Covenant to form and belong to trade unions. However, it is
concerned that they are still prevented from participating in collective
bargaining and in strikes, a right guaranteed in both the Covenant
and in the national Constitution (art. 33). While cognizant of the
elevated status that is traditionally bestowed on teachers in Korean
society, the Committee considers it inappropriate for the Government
to assume the role of guardian of traditions that prevent the exercise
of this fundamental right.
20. The Committee
is also concerned that the laws governing industrial actions are not
transparent and appear to give the authorities inordinate discretion
in determining the legality of strikes. In this regard, it considers
entirely unacceptable the approach taken to criminalize strike activities.
In addition, the Committee is deeply disturbed by the excessive force
used by the police against recent labour demonstrations that had been
set off by massive lay-offs. The Committee considers the combined
effect of these circumstances to be a clear negation of the rights
provided for in article 8 of the Covenant.
21. The Committee
is concerned about the rising incidence of sexual exploitation of
children, child labour, and hardships caused by a breakdown of the
family. In this regard, the legal protection accorded to children
does not appear to have been adequately implemented.
22. The Committee
notes with concern the shifting population distribution from rural
to urban areas, with most government programmes to develop infrastructure,
education, health care and other essential facilities being highly
concentrated in the urban areas. Urban migration of younger people
has left many older persons to care for family farms in the countryside.
The Committee regrets that the situation of persons living in rural
areas has not been sufficiently dealt with during the present dialogue.
welcoming the adoption of programmes to supplement the incomes of
those living under the poverty line, notably through the National
Basic Livelihood Security Act, the Committee has doubts about the
adequacy of the assistance given. The eligibility criteria are apparently
so rigid as to exclude many of the poor, and the amount of financial
assistance regularly awarded can reportedly be drastically reduced
without notice and without reason. The National Pension Scheme, which
is said to have nationwide coverage and be open to all persons, nevertheless
fails to provide for an inordinate proportion of the workforce who
are reaching pensionable age but have not been able to contribute
to the system for a sufficient number of years.
24. The Committee
notes with concern that despite the State party's attempts to promote
employment of the disabled, the previous 2 per cent quota for workers
with disabilities in enterprises employing over 300 employees has
not been met, even within government agencies. The Committee is also
concerned that enforcement mechanisms for this purpose do not seem
to have been established.
25. The Committee
regrets the lack of accurate information concerning the number of
forced evictions and the specific conditions under which they can
occur, in accordance with the Committee's General Comment No. 7. The
Committee is also concerned that victims of private construction projects
are not provided with compensation or temporary lodging, unlike private
homeowners who are evicted as a result of public projects. Moreover,
the Committee is concerned about the affordability of housing for
lower income groups, especially the vulnerable and marginalized groups;
about the use of "vinyl houses" for dwellings, which pose grave risks
to their dwellers; and about the increasing number of the homeless.
26. The Committee
is disturbed that the portion of the government budget allocated to
health, which is under 1 per cent is low and declining. It is concerned
at the predominance of privately operated health care facilities -
estimated to exceed 90 per cent of all health care facilities, a trend
that accelerated in the wake of the financial crisis - and the consequent
negative implications for access to health care by the most marginalized
sectors of society.
27. The Committee
notes with concern that the low quality of education in public schools
is compelling families to supplement the education of their children
with private instruction, thereby placing an undue financial burden
on families, especially those in lower-income groups.
28. The Committee
also notes with concern the predominance of private institutions in
higher education, a fact detrimental to the lower income groups. It
further notes that over two thirds of the students in higher education
are males, which is contrary to the principle of gender equality.
29. The Committee
notes that education is free and compulsory only at the primary school
level, which is not commensurate with the State party's high level
of economic development.
30. The Committee
is concerned that the present criteria for granting refugee status
appear to be far too stringent, with only one application having been
approved to date.
31. The Committee
notes with concern that human rights education has not yet been formally
incorporated as a required subject for all members of those professions
that are most directly involved in the promotion and protection of
economic, social and cultural rights.
32. The Committee
is concerned that the National Security Law is being used to curtail
the activities of intellectuals and artists. Under this law, not only
are their works being censored, confiscated or destroyed, but the
intellectuals and artists themselves are being subjected to criminal
E. Suggestions and recommendations
33. The Committee
reiterates and affirms its suggestions and recommendations contained
in its previous concluding observations on the State party's initial
report and urges the State party to take concrete steps to implement
34. The Committee
emphasizes that a human rights approach to government actions must
begin with a proper understanding of the actual situation in respect
of each right, accurate identification of the most vulnerable groups,
and the formulation of appropriate laws, programmes and policies.
It urges the national statistical agencies and relevant ministries
to review the ways in which data relating to all rights are collected
through the lens of the Covenant.
noting the enactment of a new law that establishes a national human
rights commission, the Committee emphasizes the importance of establishing
the commission in full conformity with the 1991 Principles relating
to the status of national institutions (the "Paris Principles"), and
in this context, draws attention to its General Comment No. 10.
36. The Committee
urges the State party to accord the Covenant a legal status that would
enable it to be invoked directly within the domestic legal system.
It recommends that such status be superior to all national laws, whether
precedent, antecedent or special, and refers in this regard to its
General Comment 9.
37. The Committee
recommends that the State party allocate the necessary resources to
enable the newly established Ministry for Gender Equality to function
effectively and to apply a gender perspective in legislation and in
38. The Committee
recommends that detailed information on the situation of "irregular"
workers be included in the third periodic report. In the meantime,
it strongly recommends that the State party reconsider the status
of irregular workers and guarantee their rights under the Covenant.
39. The Committee
reminds the State party that the provisions of article 8 guarantee
for all persons the right to freely form and join trade unions, the
right to engage in collective bargaining through trade unions for
the promotion and protection of their economic and social interests,
as well as the right to strike. The Committee urges the State party
to desist from using criminal proceedings against striking trade unions.
It also urges the State party to refrain from using any force beyond
that absolutely necessary for the maintenance of public order. The
Committee recommends that the right of teachers and other civil servants
to form and join trade unions, to engage in collective bargaining
and to strike should be guaranteed in law and in practice. Detailed
information on this is requested in the third periodic report.
40. The Committee
recommends that the State party take more effective measures to combat
the sexual trade of children and child labour, as well as expand its
programmes directed at the protection and rehabilitation of the victims
of such practices.
41. The Committee
recommends that the State party establish a focal point within the
Government for dealing with complaints or appeals for assistance on
housing matters. It recommends that protection be provided, such as
compensation and temporary housing, to victims of forced evictions
resulting from private development projects. The State party should
also ensure that adequate housing is available to members of vulnerable
or marginalized groups. Moreover, the State party should take immediate
measures to assist all those who are homeless or living in exceptionally
substandard conditions, such as "vinyl houses".
42. The Committee
recommends that the State party establish a plan to strengthen the
public education system in conformity with article 13 of the Covenant
and General Comment No. 13 of the Committee, and in accordance with
the State party's high level of economic development. The plan should
include the following elements: a reasonable timetable for specific
actions for the introduction of free and compulsory secondary education;
a re-examination of the functions and quality of the public education
system relative to private education, with a view to strengthening
the former and easing the burden on low-income groups imposed by the
latter; a study of accessibility of schools at all levels, including
tertiary education, and specific actions to be taken to ensure equal
access by all sectors of society; and a reassessment of the curricula
at all levels of instruction directed at promoting respect for human
rights and fundamental freedoms. Information on this matter is requested
in the third periodic report of the State party.
as traditional practices pose an obstacle to the fulfilment of some
rights or perpetuate discrimination of any kind, including the preference
for sons and the abortion of girl foetuses, the State party should
carry out large-scale public campaigns to promote understanding among
the general public about human rights.
44. The Committee
recommends that the State party prepare, in accordance with the Vienna
Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the 1993 World Conference
on Human Rights, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights, a national human rights plan of action, taking into
account the observations made by this and other treaty bodies. It
requests that information on such a national plan be provided in the
State party's third periodic report.
45. The Committee
urges the State party to provide detailed information in its third
periodic report, to be submitted by 30 June 2006, on conditions in
the rural sector and the situation regarding agriculture and food